Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Su Tseng-chang: Getting No Love from His Comrades

Su Tseng-chang: Getting No Love from His Comrades
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
April 12, 2012

Summary: Yao Chia-wen accused Su Tseng-chang of being insufficiently "Taiwan centric." Mark Chen insinuated that Su Tseng-chang is too "Old School." Other DPP leaders are showing Su Tseng-chang no love. Even if he is elected, Su will become just another leader unable to move forward. The DPP is wandering back and forth along a narrow path, wondering how to return to power, wondering how to reclaim its founding spirit.

Full Text below:

Yao Chia-wen accused Su Tseng-chang of being insufficiently "Taiwan centric." Mark Chen insinuated that Su Tseng-chang is too "Old School." Yesterday, amidst a storm of criticism, Su Tseng-chang announced his candidacy for the DPP party chairmanship. As a gesture of deference, he deliberately moved his schedule up two hours, to avoid running into Wu Rong-i. Various indications suggest that Su Tseng-chang's position within the party is an awkward one. He is a person who lacks his comrades' blessing.

Su Tseng-chang teamed up with Frank Hsieh during the 2008 general election. Since then he has been ostracized by his comrades. In the wake of the five cities elections, presidential election, party primaries, and party chairmanship election, his fate has been sealed. In response, Su Tseng-chang has kept a low profile. Before registering as a candidate for the party chairmanship, he deliberately made a point of visiting Chen Shui-bian in prison. He met with Tsai Ing-wen, Frank Hsieh, and other DPP leaders. In an effort to mollify the hostility directed at thim, he deferred to other DPP leaders. But by softening his stance so much, Su Tseng-chang undercut his image. His "charge, charge, charge" image of boldness has been severely undermined.

Given the current batch of contenders, Su Tseng-chang still has the best chance of being elected party chairman. For this very reason, powerful calls to "Stop Su" are being heard. Taiwan independence hardliners and others are attempting to contain him. The situation has become more and more intriguing. Accusations that Su Tseng-chang is not sufficiently "Taiwan centric" mean that Taiwan independence hardliners do not trust him. Mocking him as "Old School" reminds people that he is a chronic loser. It rubs salt in his wounds, as punishment for his indifference to "Pardon Ah-Bian!" demands. These charges may not prevent Su Tseng-chang from being elected party chairman. But they are enough to sow party discord. They are enough to weaken DPP unity and cohesion.

In fact Su Tseng-chang's predicament is the DPP's predicament. Tsai Ing-wen's four years as DPP leader was manna from heaven. But despite her excellent credentials. she ultimately met defeat. If the DPP hopes to return to power, it must review its political path and make the required changes. Tsai Ing-wen's parting words to the party were that the DPP must be more proactive in its cross-Strait strategy. She hoped the DPP would understand Mainland China better, as it interacted with it more. But the DPP has yet to budge even an inch. Party officials are still hurling charges at each other about who is or is not sufficiently Taiwan centric, and whose Taiwan independence bona fides are adequate. If a Taiwan indepdendence hardliner such as Wu Rong-i or Trong Chai is elected party chairman, the DPP's political path can easily be imagined. Meanwhile, suppose Su Tseng-chang or Hsu Hsin-liang attempts to adopt a pragmatic path? Won't they be bound hand and foot?

The influence of Taiwan independence hardliners within the DPP is growing. They sing the same tune as "Nativist oriented" pressure groups. This is the result of the DPP's long-term strategy of populist rabble-rousing. It is hardly surprising. What is odd is how this hardline Taiwan independence ideology has merged with backers of Chen Shui-bian following his imprisonment, and attacked the party. What is odd is how hardline Taiwan independence ideology has merged with unblinking apologism for corruption. This is certain to erode the DPP's once democratic nature and discredit its Nativist agenda. What is odd is how the DPP leadership turns a blind eye to all this. Party factions exploit these irrational forces for the sake of intra-party power struggles. This illustrates just how lost the DPP really is.

Consider the conduct of the DPP over the past four years. It remains the largest opposition party. From time to time it still poses a threat to the KMT in local elections. But democratic politics on Taiwan has evolved. The DPP no longer has an adequate understanding of Taiwan society. It has even less ability to lead that society. Day after day, it repeats the same old slogans. It replays the same tired old tunes. Su Tseng-chang is mocked as "Old School." If so, then the DPP ought to be mocked as senile. It is an old dog that knows no new tricks. Isn't that so?

"Experts at fighting one's comrades. Amateurs at fighting outsiders." That was the charge long leveled at the KMT. Today it is more applicable to the DPP. This is clear from the internecine struggle against Su Tseng-chang. Theoretically the DPP is choosing the kind of person it wants as chairman. Theoretically this is its own business. But consider the power struggle from the perspective of civil society. This is a political party that has a surfeit of fighting spirit, but a deficit of guiding principles. It may find itself in the opposition, or it may wind up ruling the nation. Either way it is a dangerous force. The DPP was once in power. Now it is out of power, and Chen Shui-bian is in prison. DPP leaders feel emotionally conflicted. They find it difficult to say what they feel. Party leaders resort to populist demagoguery even more readily. No attempt is made to reach a balanced conclusion. This is a regrettable development.

The plight of the DPP is a microcosm of the plight of Taiwan. In recent years political evolution on Taiwan has stalled. The ruling and opposition parties lack momentum. They are unable to promote progress. All they know how to do is stonewall each other. The voices of opposition may be in the minority. But their importance will always be exaggerated. This is why politics on Taiwan has never been able to transcend its surreal mythology, This is why outsiders pay such close attention to the DPP chairmanship election.

Other DPP leaders are showing Su Tseng-chang no love. Even if he is elected, Su will become just another leader unable to move forward. The DPP is wandering back and forth along a narrow path, wondering how to return to power, wondering how to reclaim its founding spirit.
2012.04.12 02:01 am










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